Jared Polis Is the Governor We Need in the Trump Era

Op-ed by Leslie Herod

We live in a nation led by people intent on not only taking our country back to a time where blatant racism was commonplace, but to a time where white hoods are no longer needed and tiki torches illuminate a path toward hatred, division and violence. This is the reality of being an American in 2017.

With so few reliable federal allies in the fight for justice and civil rights today, we must seize every opportunity at the state level to elect bold, progressive leaders. That’s why I’m going to do everything I can to elect Jared Polis as Colorado’s next governor.

Around the country, too many Democrats are shying away from important, impactful battles, convinced the path to victory lies in catering to the white, working class voters the party lost in the last election. They talk as if it’s a choice — either stand up for economic fairness or stand up for equality and basic civil rights.

Jared Polis knows that there is no choice. He knows that “economic fairness” is meaningless if we’re talking about an economy where women and people of color are systemically denied the opportunity to break into high-paying careers. He knows that “improving our schools” is meaningless if a child’s race, disability status, sexual orientation, or gender identity is a barrier to receiving a high quality education. He knows that “upgrading our infrastructure” means nothing if those upgrades include community displacement and mass incarceration.

Why does Polis understand these things? In part, because he spends the time to meet and talk with Coloradans from all walks of life. I’ve spent my career working in community advocacy in Colorado. My mission has always been to give a voice to those who are so often left out of our political discussions, including communities of color, immigrants, LGBTQ folks, and those with disabilities. So please trust me when I say there are few politicians, from either party, who go to the lengths Polis does to listen to these voices firsthand, and to witness in person the challenges they face. He goes out of his way to spend time in underfunded classrooms, homeless shelters, health clinics, and detention facilities that most politicians, sadly, steer clear of.

Prior to serving in Congress, Polis founded nonprofit schools for underserved students like homeless youth, pregnant girls, and new immigrants. As a representative, he talks about education the way so many black and brown families throughout our country talk about it: as an issue of basic civil rights — and he is a leading voice for investing in underfunded public schools where more help is desperately needed. Polis stood up to both the Obama and the Trump administrations when he didn’t believe either was doing enough to protect the safety of LGBTQ immigrants fleeing potentially deadly persecution. And after Trump gave his implicit endorsement to the hate groups rallying in Charlottesville, Polis immediately stood up and called these groups out for what they are: white supremacists who fundamentally oppose everything our nation stands for.

Polis has demonstrated a tough backbone when it comes to standing up to the daily chaos of the Trump administration. He also knows that simply playing defense is not enough. He’s running on a bold platform to move our state forward in the areas of education, renewable energy, and economic justice — a platform that should excite every Coloradan who cares about making our state a safer and better place to live and a place that treats everyone equally.


Colorado’s Sickle Cell Solution May Come Through Trial, Error and Courage

By Dr. Margie B. Cook

I’ve been a nurse in Colorado for 54 years and I’ve seen many people struggle with chronic diseases. It hasn’t been easy. One disease that stands out among African Americans is Sickle Cell Anemia. Sickle Cell is terrible and impacts roughly 14,000 Colorado residents each year, and around 100,000 nationwide. Here is what it looks like: Small, abnormal sickle-shaped cells ravage the body with crippling pain causing severe anemia by sticking cells to blood vessels which often leads to death. The average life expectancy for someone with Sickle Cell disease is just 48 years for women and 42 for men. While improved treatment and medical advances are slowly helping, an underlying cultural concern in the African American community contributes to the sluggish nature of medical progress.

I believe we need to have a group conversation about the lack of diversity in clinical trials conducted in many states, including Colorado. Clinical trials utilize volunteers whose participation has generally led to more informed patients and clinicians alike. This knowledge has led to more effective treatment for chronic diseases such as Sickle Cell. Visualize the medical breakthroughs and how phenomenal it would be if more people from diverse backgrounds were included. The medical-research community has been criticized because the majority of participants have been white males, per the National Institutes of Health. National efforts continue toward easing this disparity, especially focused on diseases with greater impacts on minority populations. However, one of the biggest obstacles in Colorado and elsewhere is convincing the minority community to enroll in clinical trials to begin with.

For decades, there has been a deep mistrust by many African Americans of medical trials. Generational memories of cruel experimentation in the last century still haunt the psyche of our culture. Sadly, this fear takes a toll on the ability to make progress against Sickle Cell and other diseases. Recent health reports show nearly one-third of existing Sickle Cell clinical trials were terminated early due to a lack of participants. This creates significant delays in the ability to gain approval of potential new treatments for this devastating disease.

There is hope, though. Not too long ago, Sickle Cell diagnosis in a child meant an early death. Now, blood transfusions help children with the disease live well into their 40s, 50s, and beyond. Bone marrow transplants are also curing sickle cell disease in some patients. But more can be done.

We need a stronger funding stream and more research. Finally, we need more effective treatment modalities. From those in our communities most impacted by this disease, we need your active participation in clinical trials that can offer hope for someone’s health, and maybe, your future grandchild. The past should not be forgotten, but neither should it condemn us to a life of sickness due to our failure to act. Our state researchers and those from the federal government need to continue to open the doors to diversity in clinical trials for Sickle Cell and other diseases. We need our community’s men and women of color to courageously walk through these doors and sign up as participants who want to change our world. Some in the medical community believe a renewed focus on Sickle Cell disease could bring us to a cure within the next decade. There is little doubt that such a goal will literally require trial, error and courage along the way. We need each other to make this fight a great one toward a cure. It’s time to unite in the fight against Sickle Cell Anemia.

Editor’s note: Dr. Margie B. Cook is CEO of a Denver-based health related business that develops and manages clinics and nursing schools in Africa and is co-chair of the Global Health Ad hoc Committee of the National Black Nurses Association.